SWAG ON 6: Student Overcomes Disability to Spread Positivity

It’s not an exaggeration to say the entire student body at South Plantation High School knows Bob Woodruff.

(Published Friday, March 24, 2017)

It’s not an exaggeration to say the entire student body at South Plantation High School knows Bob Woodruff. He’s almost larger than life, a commanding presence in the halls, the library, the classrooms, everywhere. Yet Bob won’t be able to click on this article and read it like every other kid. Bob is blind, and despite that, or maybe because of it, he’s a relentless force of positivity.

“You just got to have a positive outlook on life, you know, ‘cause just being down isn’t going to get you anywhere, so you have to look up, and you have to think up,” Bob says, using one of his favorite phrases.

In freshman year a teacher nicknamed him, “Dr. Bob,” and it stuck. Now he can rightfully claim the title of The Voice of his school, as Dr. Bob does the announcements every day over the intercom system, he is the stadium public address announcer at sporting events, and he welcomes everyone to school plays as the voice that tells the audience to silence cell phones and enjoy the show.

The kid is also famous beyond his school. Last week, the Broward County Commission declared a “Robert Woodruff Appreciation Day.” As he navigates the halls with his white cane, tapping along, Dr. Bob is like a walking billboard for disabled equality.

“Lots of people just assume that because I am disabled in one way that I am not able to do everything else, some people just don’t see beyond being blind like i do,” Bob said.

“I wish everybody had Bob’s drive, he’s all in,” said one of his teachers, athletic director Mike Collins.

Dr. Bob is known for passing out cookies to his classmates, it’s one of his prescriptions for anyone having a bad day. His classmates learn life lessons just by hanging out with him.

“It teaches you that it doesn’t matter, even though he can’t see things he still can do anything that anyone else can do,” said Brianna Anderson, one of Bob’s friends.

We watched Dr. Bob walk through the school, being greeted by students who just seem compelled to soak in the good vibe he brings along.

“He has so much joy in his voice, so he makes me happy whenever he walks by,” said Jelinsky Gelin, a junior.

It’s amazing: a young man who can’t see, yet has so much insight into how everyone is feeling.

“Bob has a beautiful soul,” Collins said, and he’s able to lead his classmates. “He can get the best out of them, so they rise to his level, it’s very unique and awesome.”

Dr. Bob is a college-bound senior. Unlike most kids his age, he can’t preserve memories with selfies and pictures, so he always carries a voice recorder with him, capturing conversations which he then edits and keeps. It’s good practice for his career goal: Bob wants to be a newsman, on the radio or on television.

“Maybe I’ll be the next Tom Brokaw, or Lester Holt now,” he said.

He’s already got a catchy sign-off to his school announcements, and every kid at South Plantation knows it by heart:

“Remember: heart, soul, South,” Bob says.

He embodies all of that.